Namibian national team head coach Colin Benjamin is relishing the prospect of facing his southern African neighbors, South Africa in the group stages of the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.
The Brave Warriors were drawn into a tough Group E consisting of two former African champions, Tunisia (2004), and South Africa (1996) as well as West African side Mali who will all be based in the north of Cote d’Ivoire in Korhogo. The meeting in Korhogo will be the third time they meet at the AFCON finals.
In the 1998 edition in Burkina Faso, a 4-1 result courtesy of a young Benni McCarthy’s four-goal spree went in favour of South Africa, while a solitary strike by Bongani Zungu in 2019 saw the South Africans edge Namibia 1-0 in the 2019 edition held in Egypt. The two sides recently met in an international friendly last month where nothing could separate them in a 0-0 stalemate.
However, a lot more will be at stake when the two sides clash in Cote d’Ivoire next year which is a fixture that is always special according to Benjamin. “I think we had this fixture at the last edition when we were there in Egypt. It’s always something special playing against South Africa. Most of our boys play in SA and it’s basically a second home for them so they have to show their SA parents what they have learned in the league but also show their Namibian parents that they are proudly Namibian, so it’s always this thing in the middle,” said Colin as quoted by CAFOnline.
“I think for the region it is good and for our countries it is very good. So, we are definitely looking forward to that fixture.”
Sharing his thoughts on his side’s potential of advancing out of the group, the former Brave Warriors captain said next year’s edition would gather the best nations on the continent and it would be a good test for them as there were no easy groups.
“I think for Namibia it’s always going be tough. We expected that we were going to get good countries and if you look at it, for us it’s a group that we can test ourselves. After all, it is the best teams in Africa that are here, so we are going to do our preparations and look forward to our derby with our neighbors and a good competition,” he said.
At 45, Benjamin is going to the tournament as one of the young coaches who will be looking at making a name for himself against some of the best tacticians on the continent.